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Tiwa Savage’s struggling brand and her hilarious endorsement of ‘Mungo Parking’ [Pulse Editor’s Opinion]

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As of November 29, 2020, the album has an average score of 5.4/10 on AnyDecentMusic and 60/100 on Metacritic. When Jay Z made his only appearance on The Breakfast Club in 2013 after the album dropped, he told the hosts, DJ Envy, Charlemagne tha God and Angela Yee that he had read two reviews of the album before shrugging without arguing or trying to make any point.

On November 28, 2020, the Marc Beinoff-owned Time Magazine named Tiwa Savage’s album, Celia as one of the top 10 albums of the year. While Tiwa Savage took to social media to vaunt what seemed like ‘vindication’ to her and thank God, she also took time to take shots at Nigerians and Nigerian media.

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She felt foreign media endorsement was a greater representation of what she achieved with ‘Celia.’ Since 2018, the woman affectionately called ‘Mummy Jam Jam’ by the Nigerian music industry has struggled to impress Nigerians and Nigerian media since her critically-acclaimed EP, Sugarcane.

After it was released, ‘Celia’ sailed under the radar like a hopeless lagoon playing host to dirtbags. As reported by Pulse Nigeria, ‘Celia’ had the lowest first week numbers from an analysis of albums by her, Adekunle Gold, Fireboy and Patoranking. Pulse Nigeria also gave the album a reasonable score of 6.4/10.

But to Tiwa Savage, she deserved more from Nigerian media and Nigerians. On the day ‘Celia’ dropped, Yemi Alade was a bigger trending topic – either organically or inorganically. So instead of endorsing Nigerian narratives that don’t favour her, she’d rather embrace the ‘Mungo Parking’ because it favours her.

It’s also interesting because Tiwa Savage has also embraced that ‘Pan-Africanist’ brand.

Mungo Parking and the laughable endorsement of foreign media

Mungo Parking: An act of gentrifying, tokenizing and renaming or repurposing existing African pop culture concepts into what they are not. Usually, this is based on agenda, paid promotion, misinformation and/or ignorance by foreign media.

A few months ago, Tiwa Savage literally thanked Essence Magazine for including her on a list of rappers when the closest she is to being an emcee is her gorgeous sleeve tattoo. Yet, she still endorses foreign media over local media and expects us to take that endorsement seriously?

Foreign media is the worst ground of reliable information on African artists.

ALSO READ: Foreign media needs to do a better job at documenting African stories

HipHopDX just named Burna Boy’s Twice As Tall on a list of R&B albums. How is ‘Twice As Tall’ an R&B album? Interestingly, Warner Music Group owns the platform. Atlantic Records, to which Burna Boy is signed, is a subsidiary of Warner Music Group.

A few days before that, Vogue UK named Amaarae on a list of female artists challenging the norm in Nigeria. Amaarae is super-talented and her album, The Angel You Don’t Know is an amazing listen, however she is not known in Nigeria and importantly, she is Ghanaian.

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That article is worse than the 2018 Vogue article that named Nigerian alte artist, Wavy The Creator as the creator of the Shaku Shaku dance. The problem with foreign media’s coverage of Nigerian music is that it’s either paid, agenda-based or a product of heavy misinformation by well-meaning yet ignorant foreign journalists.

When they do give the job to Nigerian journalists, those journalists have to follow the agenda or lose their claim to money. Sometimes, some of those Nigerian journalists are also heavily misinformed.

After Burna Boy lost the Grammy Awards earlier in the year, an article on Uproxx severely criticized the Recording Academy for its ‘Best World Music Album’ category. What’s interesting is the timing of the article and how Uproxx is owned by Warner Music as well.

A few months before that, Nicki Duerden also ignorantly called Burna Boy’s ‘Killing Dem’ featuring Zlatan a “polemic” on a Billboard article. On the same Billboard, we saw a laughable list of “gatekeepers” in Nigerian music. Finally, Soundcloud also called Cuppy an ‘Afrobeats veteran.’ Like how?

ALSO READ: Dear foreign media, please do your due diligence on African entertainment stories

The totality of these acts are what this writer calls ‘Mungo Parking.’

Tiwa Savage might blame Nigerians and Nigerian media all she wants, but the continued lukewarm reception she’s been getting from Nigerian media and Nigerians is due to a recent history of terrible branding decisions and her tendency for trying too hard. These things have been severely backfired.

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Problems with Tiwa Savage’s brand

In 2017, Tiwa Savage released ‘Sugarcane EP’ which produced the smash hits, ‘Ma Lo’ and ‘All Over’ – a classic. That EP was an impressively crafted bounce back from the infamous drama in the wake of her marital troubles. The EP and all the positivity around it led to her being named ‘Best African Act’ at the 2018 MTV Europe Music Awards.

But after that era, the drama began. At the time, a 38-year-old Savage started moving like she had lost her conviction. Her next single was ‘Lova Lova,’ she jumped on the trendy Duncan Mighty feature spree. The song did succeed, but it was the first evidence of the cracks in her armoury. Tiwa Savage doesn’t tie into trends, she creates them.

The next act was the biggest faux-pas from which she never recovered – her public dalliance with Wizkid. A pop who is 10 years her junior and whose personal life has been the subject of intense scrutiny. First off, we can’t tell a woman how to live her life and neither should we police what she chooses to do with it.

Secondly, age is nothing but a number. However, branding is an important aspect of celebrity and the perception of celebrity – male or female. When you are Tiwa Savage and a woman in Nigeria, the reality isn’t that rosy. Your life, your body and what you choose to do with it in the public eye is key to how you are perceived – especially when you’re a 38-year-old single mother.

Even when your brand includes the tag ‘African Bad Gyal’ and you have a beautiful sleeve tattoo, our patriarchal society is unforgiving in its judgement of groupie counter-culture. When you go from the desirable Tiwa Savage to Wizkid spanking you on video, you’re acting like a groupie. Your value and brand as the lofty queen of Afro-pop will inevitably take a hit.

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It’s unfair, but that’s the reality for women in Nigeria and Africa.

You will go from desirable to ‘groupie behaviour’ within the snap of a finger. It also doesn’t help that she was basically a video vixen in Wizkid’s visuals for ‘Fever.’ As if that wasn’t enough, anytime Tiwa Savage needed publicity for anything between August 2018 and December 2019, her team terribly found ways to use the trend-worthy dalliance with Wizkid as a promo point.

It got to a point that Nigerians – as slow as they are – got tired of the repeated cycle of publicity stunts with the supposed relationship between Wizkid and Tiwa Savage. This was inevitably going to affect how she is perceived and in consequence, her music.

Her brand managers are also not helping matters. It’s even worse that they hadn’t the slightest understanding of the Nigerian realities.

Their obsession with western visibility took the lead over her local base and she suffered for it. When you are the beautiful 39-year-old Queen of Afro-pop, you need to move with grace. Her brand never recovered from it and she’s having a hard time coming to terms with the fact that her time at the pinnacle of superstardom looks to be slowing down.

Like the saying goes, all good things come to an end. In 2019, all her singles were poorly received – including the heavily marketed ‘49-99. ‘Shotan’ was a good song that might have been mistimed though. However, it also seems her deal with Universal Music Group via Motown South Africa is taking a toll on her.

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Tiwa Savage and UMG

First off, that deal came a little too late for Tiwa Savage. As any music person knows, record deals like that come with a lot of obligations that Savage herself wouldn’t be at liberty to shirk. The fact that Tiwa Savage’s music isn’t what it was, and with her brand in tatters, she’s recently looked like she’s been trying too hard.

Over the past 14 months, Savage has had to manage one faux-pas after another. While she honestly told Pulse Nigeria during a soon-to-be-published interview that it wasn’t her intention, her Guardian UK interview sought to position her as the zenith of an anti-rape movement that she had only recently publicly endorsed.

The same thing happened during her chat with Ebro In The Morning on Hot 97. Then, she was unfairly accused of blocking Yemi Alade’s fans on Twitter.

The need for validation and bad judgement

If you meet Tiwa Savage, her pure soul is evident even in how she talks. She seems to have a good heart too, but her public debacles are getting out of hand. Either intentionally or unintentionally, she also seems to be obsessed with validation.

While all artists love praise when they feel like they deserve it, you have to sometimes accept that you might not have created the best work.

This then brings back the conversation of her Time Magazine inclusion. For some reason, the inauthenticity of her inclusion shares similarities with the stench of excrement from a piggery. For a lot of reasons, it seems like placement or the misinformed decision of an American who wants to tokenize African music and find a ‘unique’ angle to ‘Afrobeats to the world.’

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It seems like the person who selected that album has no cogent understanding of African music. The selection also ties into the woke narratives – the beautiful, dark-skinned African woman whose pre-album branding revolves around anti-rape, womanhood, feminism and socio-politics.

Of course, Savage would endorse it. She seems to think like every Nigerian is against her at the moment – at least her social media activity suggests that.

A few weeks before that, Savage ridiculously went after Beyonce for not publicly supporting the EndSARS movement while looking high. Even if your record contract ties with your natural inclination to put yourself in every conversation, then you need better execution. These acts are getting ridiculous. She was also in certain comment sections saying she’s spoken to Diddy about EndSARS.

Beyonce and Diddy can’t even save Americans, how will they save Nigerians?

If you don’t want to give up despite your age, there are better ways to do things. The first step to that is taking a break from social media and hatching a great plan for your image.

Secondly, you also have to come to terms with the fact that you are now an OG and you must act like it. More importantly, when you have to shade other people to vaunt yourself or your work, it shows insecurity. Quality and greatness don’t need a megaphone.

That’s why Jay Z never shaded anybody for the criticism his album, Magna Carta, Holy Grail got.